The Charlotte News

Monday, January 24, 1938


Site Ed. Note: We suppose now that we gather from whence Cash applied the moniker "pink walrus" to Heywood Broun--something about eating all the oysters and then crying boo-hoo with regard to their thus digested status. And, of course, a $37,200 salary in 1938 was a whopper, three times, for instance, what a United States senator or Federal judge earned; about fifteen times that of Cash's $2,400 annual take, and for a column which ranged between 500 and 750 words per day, roughly half of Cash's usual daily output. Not bad for a college dropout. So, if Cash appears a bit sardonic on Broun, it is not surprising.

Had Cash gone to Europe as a war correspondent as he wanted, had he lived and gained another decade of writing behind him, a novel or two and a book on the war maybe, who knows? Perhaps, he, too, might have become a walrus in his own writ.

Which is not to say hypocrite; for a walrus at least demonstrates emotion and understanding still over the plight of the less fortunate, even if the walrus aided and abetted their luckless abject state--though accomplished indirectly and without full awareness of the consumption. Today, indeed, one might fashion the entire American middle class, vis à vis the Third World which makes its cheap shoes and clothing in Indonesia or China sweat shops, much as conditions were in the South of Cash's day when compared to the North, the Walrus.

We are the oil men... Goo goo goo-joob.

"Signs from the Heavens" must have carried with it even greater seeming portent by December 7, 1941. Mauna Loa erupted in 1942, 1949, and 1975; its greatest period of activity in modern times having been in 1881. For more on the meteor shower of 1833 and its auguring the Civil War, see "The Falling Stars", August 12, 1938, and its accompanying note.

We suppose that looking to the stars as portent was a step forward from divining the future by perceiving the layout from the entrails of a goat; but regardless of the method, we always must stop and consider to what extent such public presaging of events becomes ground in which a self-fulfilling prophecy, fertilized by unhealthy imaginations and photosynthesized by expectant fear, flourishes to the danger of all, so taking on its own life as to be positively sought by some to confirm their insistent beliefs in the power of the portent giving rise to the belief. The collective acceptance of the inevitability of a thing, especially a bad thing, as bad things are more easily adaptable to the human mind from harsh experience with nature as positively inevitable, finally enables it to being?

But: rapidly melting icecaps, for instance, are not portents; they are phenomena within nature from which we may empirically extrapolate to find what may and may not be put back together again. It is neither reading goats nor stars--a couple of recent presidents' reading habits notwithstanding.

We are the oil men.

As the Twig Was Bent*

The Government's victory in the case against sixteen major oil companies and thirty leading oil men is in all respects a serious business. Sentences are yet to be passed, but the corporations face fines of up to $5,000 each, and the individuals may be popped into jail for as much as a year. Indeed, some of the wives of the defendant officers came weeping to their sides in the best courtroom manner when they heard the foreman of the Federal jury pronounce the awful word, Guilty.

Well they might weep, for this is a criminal, not a civil, action that the Government has won. And yet there's something contradictory about it, something half-hearted in the Government's belated decision to prosecute. For what these oil companies did in violation of the anti-trust acts was precisely what they had been accustomed to doing with Federal sanction under NRA. Secretary Ickes administered the oil code in such a way as to insure minimum prices for producers in the field, which inevitably called for price-fixing among distributors. Their plea that Mr. Ickes taught them the trick may have no standing in law, but actually it lessens the degree of their iniquity, and lends some credence to the defense that they were victims of the administration's inability to make up its mind between busting or blessing trusts.

Anyhow, They Fought

The morning papers carried an Associated Press dispatch from Hendaye, France, to the effect that Spanish Government sources report that yesterday at Teruel an American battalion wiped out two squadrons of Franco's Moors. And this afternoon we are publishing an Associated Press dispatch from Perpignan, France, which has it that, according to Insurgent sources, yesterday at Teruel two squadrons of Franco's Moors wiped out an American battalion.

From which we deduce at least this certainty--that yesterday at Teruel Americans were industriously trying to kill Moors and that Moors were industriously trying to kill Americans.

Is the United States, then, at war with Morocco? If so, Dr. Cordell Hull has been very quiet about it. Or do Americans particularly dislike the Moors, and Moors particularly dislike Americans? We had not heard of it. Ah, but the Americans and Moors pant with love for Spain, then? It seems, somehow, a little doubtful. Wherefore, how came it about, then, that yesterday Americans were trying to kill Moors and Moors were trying to kill Americans? Why, as nearly as we can find out, through a word and money. The Americans are fighting in Spain for a word, democracy. And the Moors, according to the best reports, are fighting because Franco or Mussolini or somebody pays 'em to fight.

They'll Go

We trust that the doctors of Burke County did not quite mean it when, the other day, apparently taking their cue from a doctor out West, they got together and decided to blacklist everybody who was in arrears with any of them, to attend those blacklisted only for cash on the nail, and in all labor cases whatever to require payment in advance.

We can imagine that it is highly irritating to have to roll out of the bed at two o'clock in the morning to bring some squalling hillsbrat into world, but then to go unpaid when its sire plainly could pay. But there is a very great difference between the deadbeats and those who really cannot pay--and we hope the Burke doctors have not forgotten that difference.

Else they will be making medicine into a mere business--and a particularly hard-boiled kind of business. For 2,500 years medicine has not been primarily a business in the western world. And if the doctors forget that tradition, they will be surrendering precisely the thing which made Robert Louis Stevenson say once that doctors were the only body of men on earth who were almost invariably admirable.

But of course they won't, these doctors in Burke. They are merely expressing helplessly their resentment of patients who don't pay. When Mrs. Indigent Hillsman goes into labor again, and the call comes for a doctor, it will be answered; and we'll bet the doctor's uncollectible fee on that.

Site Ed. Note: Goo goo goo-joob.

Why, the Old Walrus!

There are times when we suspect that what old Henry Mencken used often to argue, to the great scandal of the more solemn variety of patriots, is so--and that this actually is the funniest country on earth.

What moves us to the reflection at the moment is the fact that we have just discovered, in a list of salaries paid to prominent newspaper men published by Editor and Publisher, that Heywood Broun, the gentleman who performs in a column to lee'ards, draws down $37,200 per annum!

What is funny about that, of course, is that Heywood, in his utterances, is one of these here radicals. There was a time, indeed, when he might have been called a Red, the time when for a while he was a member of the Communist Party of America, but probably Heywood never was really a Red. He is plainly and incurably a maverick, and Reds are all sheep--or parrots. Anyhow, they all say exactly the same things in exactly the same way. But pink in his utterances Heywood undoubtedly is. To put it mildly, he says, capitalism is lousy.

Yet, by the current tests, and by tests that Heywood himself has often laid down, that salary plainly makes him an Economic Royalist. Wherefore, we have the paradox of an Economic Royalist daily spouting pink opinions! But an even greater paradox than that is the fact that the people who pay that salary are a highly capitalistic chain of newspapers, a highly capitalistic syndicate, and any number of highly capitalistic newspapers which buy Mr. Broun's column. In short, we have the spectacle of a highly capitalistic press paying an Economic Royalist to write daily pieces giving capitalism hell!

No doubt of it. It is the funniest country on earth. But not even Heywood will deny that, by the same token, it is a most pleasant one in which to live.

Site Ed. Note: Soon, though still not yet, you will be able to go back and read Broun's piece of January 15 for another intriguing gander into the world of poetic portent. (No, it is not about beetles, at least not exactly.)

A Distinguished Visitor*

It is going to fall to Cameron Morrison to introduce Dr. John R. Mott, the YMCA speaker of Tuesday evening, to his audience, and while our distinguished former Governor is thoroughly at home in such a role, we wonder if he appreciates the size and the difficulties of the undertaking. Dr. Mott is the sort of person one could more easily write a book about than portray adequately in the time allotted for an introduction. In fact, a book has been written about him, and it ran to 461 printed pages.

In the more than seventy years since he was born, Dr. Mott has been indefatigable. Though a queasy traveler, he has been nearly 2,000,000 miles, touching almost every spot, no matter how outlandish, on the globe. And though the variety of his interests is great, and though he has been offered academic and political posts of preferment, the central theme of his life remains, as it became during his college days, the extension and the consolidation of the Christian religion. He is to Christianity much as Norman H. Davis is to the United States Government--Ambassador to the world. And he has done as much, undoubtedly, as any contemporary person in spreading the doctrine with which he has bound up his life.

Signs in the Heavens

In addition to the uneasiness caused by the proximity of the volcano (Mauna Loa, in connection with yesterday's earthquake), Hawaii island residents reported seeing a big meteor fall.

We might smile at that. The fall of a big meteor is an explicable enough happening, as explicability goes in this amazing world in which we have our being, and is likely to hurt no one. And yet if we smile at the Hawaiians we shall only be smiling at the whole human race. When men feel that they are dwelling over imminent disaster, they everywhere fall into the state of mind where natural phenomena become ominous portents.

So early as 1833, when the stars fell over the Southern states--when there took place, that is, one of those great periodical meteor showers which are well-known to astronomers--many pulpits and editorial sanctums, not all of them low-placed, saw it as a certain sign of coming war between the North and South. And when, in the 50's, Donati's great comet burned through the heavens, the verdict that it portended such a war was almost universal. As in the early days of Reconstruction, the falling in some parts of Dixie of "bloody snow"--that is, snow laden with red dust from the upper atmosphere--was widely seen as ground for terror and gloom.

And before we smile too much at the Hawaiians, we shall have to remember that Mauna Loa is one of the greatest and most dangerous of Pacific volcanoes--as great and as dangerous, perhaps, as was Krakatao in Sunda Straits, which in 1883 killed 120,000 people.

Site Ed. Note: The rest of the page presciently forms its ideas on the capacious minds of its readers, then and now, and well beyond the full understanding by man or dog, at this place in the starry plough.

Framed Edition
[Return to Links-Page by Subject] [Return to Links-Page by Date] [Return to News<i>--</i>Framed Edition]
Links-Date -- Links-Subj.